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Julia Wolfe; USA

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Julia Wolfe is ranked among the more important composers stylistically linked to post-minimalism. Though her music falls under that broad and somewhat nondescript tag, it is quite eclectic and almost defies classification. The listener notices a range of disparate elements in her works, from rock and minimalist influences, to features such as long pauses, as in the chamber piece Lick (1994), and various extreme uses of sound, as in Window of Vulnerability (1991), which achieves massive, some might say, deafening decibel levels. She has also incorporated microtonal elements and natural sounds emanating from both rural and urban sources. Wolfe has written for orchestra, chamber ensemble, solo keyboard and for theater and film. Her works have been available on a variety of labels, including Cantaloupe, Elektra/Wea and Point Music.

Julia Wolfe was born in Philadelphia on December 18, 1958. She studied at Yale University with Martin Bresnick, where she earned a Masters degree. She enrolled at Princeton later on and obtained a doctorate degree.

In 1987 she co-founded the progressive music organization and festival, Bang on a Can, with her husband, composer David Lang and fellow composer Michael Gordon. Though she was already a seasoned composer at the time, having written music for productions at the Wild Swan Theater, from 1980 on, and having produced chamber works like on seven-star-shoes (1985), she would soon turn out such important compositions as Amber Waves of Grain, for orchestra (1989), and Four Marys, for string quartet (1991).

Wolfe was also beginning to attract commissions from prestigious sources as well, including the Library of Congress, Koussevitzky Foundation, the American Academy and Institute of Arts and Letters, and from ensembles like the Kronos Quartet.

In the late-1990s Wolfe collaborated with Michael Gordon and David Lang on the so-called comic book opera, The Carbon Copy Building, which was premiered in Turin, Italy in 1999.

In the new century Wolfe has been active as a teacher, first at the Manhattan School of Music (from 2003) and later at New York University, where she is a professor of composition.

Among her later works is the 2009 Steel Hammer, for vocal soloists and chamber ensemble. Lasting well over an hour, this is among her largest and most imaginative compositions. Her later recordings include the 2009 Cantaloupe CD entitled Dark Full Ride, which consists of four works scored, respectively, for multiple sets of bagpipes, drums, pianos and double basses.

© Robert Cummings, All Music Guide
Portions of Content Provided by All Music Guide.
© 2008 All Media Guide, LLC. All Music Guide is a registered trademark of All Media Guide, LLC.
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  • Free Play:
  • Miscellaneous
  • Chamber Works
  • Piano Works
  • Vocal Works
Below are works by J.Wolfe that every music lover should explore:
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